Buying Democracy

With the final results and races just being called, given the huge absentee ballots cast on or near election day, the jury is still out on the actual data and just what can be accurately gleaned from it. Voter turnout wasn’t as bad as initially thought but just who voted and did what is still up for speculation.
Of course, there are some things we do know: Arnold kicked Phil mightily (that’s what you can do with hundreds of millions of big donor bucks, your opponent too involved in the minutae of his campaign, and the press just loving you to death…), Bush got a real “wuppin” (but you wouldn’t know it by his ignoring the clear message from the people and his arrogant attempt to continue his now well-debunked failed right-wing revolution) and NONE of the state’s legislative seats have changed parties (official as of yesterday— almost two WEEKS after the election!)
So what does this all mean? The pundits have been having a field day—today’s spin keys on Schwarzenegger getting 39 % of the Latino vote, for example; but McClintock got only 23% (which, given his harsh and almost racist discussion of immigration is 23% more than one would have expected). What to make of this?
Are Latinos turning Republican or did they, like the rest of California’s voters fall to the hype and warm and fuzzy remake of Arnold Schwarzenegger by his brilliant and well-financed Bush campaign team?
Millions were spent on various state legislative races, none of which resulted in an upset (defined as the district changing party affiliation) Well……..that’s actually a stunning fact given that around the country voters booted out a number of Republican incumbents or candidates in otherwise “safe” republican districts—including one here in California with Richard Pombo, no friend of fish or fowl, getting a well-deserved boot. Redistricting seems to be the lynchpin on this one. But no changes here in California—no additional Democrats in the legislature. All the seats securely designated to belong to one party or the other. Any bets we see a redistricting measure that will make the state legislature more competitive in the future?

I don’t know if it’s burnout or just disgust with the fact that the corporations with the most money win….not quite the democracy I was taught in school. But for me this election was another example of the need to curb the almighty dollar in the political process. There is no question it corrupts many politicians—even well-meaning people wanting to do public service for the betterment of the community. There is no question it corrupts good public policy by lying and misleading the voters with impugnity and now pay-offs to “spokespeople” and well-respected community leaders to take a yay or nay position on important ballot measures that pit the public against corporate greed; that money distorts the real discussion and reduces the debate to the lowest common denominator, and often basest fears.
Prop 89, for example, tanked terribly, yet the public wants honest and fair debate on important issues and wants quality people in the political process. We crave integrity but acknowledge it is hard to find in the world of politics today; we thirst for meaningful change so that our education and healthcare systems can care for all who rely on them for hope and health; we want our quality of life protected and improved but know that money can influence whether this happens or not. There is simply a disconnect in today’s dialogue and it doesn’t appear to be getting any better. Focus groups and soundbites are bought by those with the largest checkbooks, not to do good, but to preserve wealth—and power.
So while all the pundits review and redo their analysis of what it all means, it would behoove us all to reconsider the notion of clean and honest elections that are driven by the issues and not by the biggest wallet. I wonder if we’ll see much discussion of that in the days and weeks ahead.